Bacterial contamination on touch surfaces in the public transport system and in public areas of a hospital in London

Lett Appl Microbiol. 2009 Dec;49(6):803-5. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-765X.2009.02728.x. Epub 2009 Aug 22.


Aims: To investigate bacterial contamination on hand-touch surfaces in the public transport system and in public areas of a hospital in central London.

Methods and results: Dipslides were used to sample 118 hand-touch surfaces in buses, trains, stations, hotels and public areas of a hospital in central London. Total aerobic counts were determined, and Staphylococcus aureus isolates were identified and characterized. Bacteria were cultured from 112 (95%) of sites at a median concentration of 12 CFU cm(-2). Methicillin-susceptible Staph. aureus (MSSA) was cultured from nine (8%) of sites; no sites grew methicillin-resistant Staph. aureus (MRSA).

Conclusions: Hand-touch sites in London are frequently contaminated with bacteria and can harbour MSSA, but none of the sites tested were contaminated with MRSA.

Significance and impact of the study: Hand-touch sites can become contaminated with staphylococci and may be fomites for the transmission of bacteria between humans. Such sites could provide a reservoir for community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) in high prevalence areas but were not present in London, a geographical area with a low incidence of CA-MRSA.

MeSH terms

  • Colony Count, Microbial
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Environmental Microbiology*
  • Equipment Contamination*
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • London
  • Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Staphylococcal Infections / microbiology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / transmission
  • Staphylococcus aureus / isolation & purification*
  • Transportation*